Security software company McAfee has adapted to many changes over the years, but Chief Executive Chris Young says one thing has remained constant: "our commitment to protecting everyone, from the consumer all the way through the large organization."
Few companies are as identifiable with their industry as McAfee. Its heritage and longevity in the cybersecurity industry date back to "even before it was called cybersecurity," says Young.
Security software pioneer John McAfee founded the company, which remained independent for many years. Intel acquired it for $7.7 billion in 2010, renamed it Intel Security, and then spun it out as an independent McAfee in 2017. (Intel still owns a 49 percent stake.)
Young, who joined the company in 2014, sees much of McAfee's future in the same place as other old-school tech industries: the cloud.
Young recently sat down at McAfee's headquarters in Santa Clara to talk about changes in the security industry and how the again-independent McAfee intends to provide new services for its security customers' needs. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: McAfee has a long history in the security industry. Have all the changes had any impact on what McAfee has tried to do in the security industry?
A: We have been through a lot of changes in the last several years. The good news is there has been a lot of continuity through those different iterations of our corporate structure. But, we've always been focused on keeping people safe. We've always been focused on cybersecurity. We've got one of the deepest, and I would say most-robust security portfolios of products in the industry. Through all those changes, we've continued to grow, and protect the number of consumer devices. Today, we cover over 300 million consumer devices between PCs, mobile devices, etc. We've, obviously, continued to stay very near to the ground with protecting corporate customers and government customers, as well.
Q: With all that in mind, how would you say McAfee protects, say, the average consumer?
A: A lot of what we've done is through products. The main way we're providing protection from the consumer all the way through the enterprise, or the government, is through software, and now increasing through the cloud and services. We just announced at the end of November that we were intending to acquire Sky High Networks, which is a cloud access security broker leader, and that's an exciting addition to the McAfee family. It extends us from being primarily a software player to more of a cloud services player. Really, what we do is about protection. How we deliver it, whether it's software, or services, it's dependent upon the user, if they are a business or a consumer.
Q: Having just closed the acquisition of Sky High, why don't you tell a bit about what that company will bring to McAfee's arsenal of services?
A: I would say we've had a lot of products in the cloud space, but this extends that and takes us into another category. One of the biggest trends in the broader IT industry is the movement to using the cloud. Whether it's just consuming services through the cloud, like software as a service, or moving applications and data to cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services or (Microsoft) Azure, or other platform versions. For us, Sky High is an addition that gives us a platform capability in cloud that takes us to the next level in terms of what we can offer our customers.
Q: What do your customers think about McAfee's moves into the cloud? Are there concerns about the security of the cloud platforms that are different from traditional software?
A: The way I think about it is: Cloud is a bit of a market inflection point for security. In a traditional security model, generally speaking, a corporation or other enterprise will put software on their devices. They put a bunch of network security products in their network, and they create a perimeter around their enterprise. With the cloud, everything's distributed. You're accessing services and applications that could be anywhere in the world. So, now you have to have a completely different paradigm for how security is integrated into those applications. And ultimately, it extends out into the way the user interacts with those services. And that's how we're going to be able to address issues that are more cloud-native.
Q: What kinds of services are your customers asking for now?
A: On the consumer side, we're seeing a huge uptick in using services and devices as well. We're coming off probably one of our most-connected Christmases we've ever had. Even in my own house, I've got a coffee mug that heats itself up, but there's an app. And you have to go download the app to control the temperature so your coffee doesn't get cold. And to me, that's a great example of how connected devices in the home are becoming. Each of these is a reminder to me that the consumer is using devices that are connected to the cloud in ways that we've not seen before. And that's going to open up not only opportunities for the consumer, but also opportunities for attackers to take advantage of such situations. From our perspective, on the consumer side, it's really important that we do a better job of protecting that connected home.
Q: What would you say is the part of this job that continues to make it interesting for you?
A: Honestly, one of the things about cybersecurity that I like the most is that you are never done in this industry. You never get it all figured out. I'm a problem solver, and this is the ultimate problem to solve. I feel our sense of mission here is important.
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